NHS and emergency services defend taking part in Leeds' Clap for Carers after public backlash over breaking social distancing rules

The emergency services have defended their joining in of what has become a weekly national celebration of the NHS after coming under fire for not observing social distancing rules.

Friday, 17th April 2020, 5:01 pm
Updated Friday, 17th April 2020, 5:02 pm

Health and fire bosses have spoken out against a public backlash after they joined the Clap for Carers show of solidarity outside Leeds General Infirmary on Thursday evening at 8pm.

While many commented positively on the Yorkshire Evening Post's coverage of what has now become a national trend each week, others were critical of the emergency services for not practising the social distancing measures the UK population has been asked to.

Bex Townsend wrote: "How can you be proud of this!? While thousands of people are staying home losing money and jobs and your [sic] proud because you made a simple 8pm clap look like a rave! Half of these could be carrying the virus undoing all the hard work everyone has put in.. absolutely ridiculous."

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NHS staff join the nationwide tribute to key workers.

Issy Belstaffe said: "No one is observing the 2m distance directive! This is madness."

Lindsey Bradley said: "Far too close together with no protection?That's scary."

While others recognised that police, fire and medical staff can't always social distance to go about their jobs, joining the tribute in person may not be the best way to show appreciation.

Martin O Neill wrote: "Of course it near on impossible for the emergency services to be social distancing themselves from each other, but the amount of general public that are now appearing to come and watch this now surely adds more pressure to the situation, it's becoming like a theme park down there. We are on lockdown, if you don't need to be there, DON'T BE!"

Fire-fighters at the Clap for Carers celebration outside LGI on Thursday.

Leon Adebayo added: "I think it's great that we collectively show our appreciation of NHS workers and I understand that other essential front line services cannot social distance, but I do not understand the need for our fire and police to travel down and huddle together, unnecessary mixing with people that they wouldn't need to mix with day to day work to demonstrate their appreciation. This is how the virus could easily spread amongst all our emergency service workers. This image is a consequence of the modern world and the need to promote any good deed on social media."

However, the emergency service leaders said that it was good for morale and they were "eager" to show appreciation of each other.

Dr Phil Wood, Medical Director at Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, said: “The Clap for Carers weekly events are a wonderful opportunity for everyone to share their appreciation for the brilliant work of keyworkers across all sectors, and also a great morale boost for those on the front line. We recognise when staff aren’t carrying out clinical duties and caring for patients they should make every effort to observe the social distancing measures and will continue to remind staff of this.”

Deputy Chief Fire Officer Dave Walton said: “The Fire Service is maintaining social distancing rules wherever and whenever possible whilst also maintaining our vital emergency response, which requires team members to work alongside each other.

“We are very eager to show our appreciation of the NHS and carers and we are conscious that as more and more people are joining the Thursday night Clap for Carers, these locations are becoming more crowded.”

It comes as Downing Street urged people to follow social distancing guidance after the country's most senior police officer was filmed clapping for carers on a crowded Westminster Bridge.

Metropolitan Police Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick led dozens of officers in the weekly applause for key workers last night.

A video posted to the force's Twitter account shows her standing in front of officers, who are lined up with gaps in front of police vehicles along the bridge near Parliament.

But the gesture drew criticism from some after another video, which has been viewed millions of times online, emerged showing groups of people, near police officers, apparently ignoring social distancing guidance.

The Prime Minister's official spokesman said: "We would ask that everyone takes responsibility and adheres to social distancing rules so that we can safely show our appreciation for those who are working so hard to fight coronavirus."